At universities across the country, researchers are examining the effects of these natural practices, and the results are very positive.
If you have never tried sitting meditation, it can be challenging at first. But if you are motivated with the practice, you will find that, over time, you will be able to lengthen and strengthen your attention.
By practicing mindfulness meditation in which we continually bring the focus back to the breath or other anchor every time we are distracted, we learn to do this during the day during all our activities.
There are many ways to meditate, and many ways to learn meditation. You can take a course, read a book, or start by listening and following along with a guided meditation on this site or another site.
The guided audio meditations on the next page are brief.
Later you might like to increase your practice to 10, 20, or even 30 minutes. Whatever amount of time you have is fine.
Just as you can build your muscles through exercise, you can build your attention through mindfulness practice.
Formal and Informal Meditation Practice
Formal practice is when you meditate regularly every day.
Informal practice is when you remember to be mindful at different times of the day.
Then you can bring a sense of awareness to your breath, body, and activities.
Try to meditate at a time that is good for you, when you know you will not be interrupted. First thing in the morning is a great time to meditate, to ground yourself, find a sense of stillness and balance before you begin your day.
You may want to have two meditation practice times: in the morning and in the late afternoon or evening.
Starting your Formal Meditation Practice
Clear a space. Make the place where you meditate special in some way, a place where you feel comfortable and where you can relax.
Sit comfortably but in an upright position with your back straight, either on a chair or on a cushion on the floor. If you need to, you may lean your back against a wall. The idea is to find a comfortable yet stable position.
Set your intention. Before you start, decide that you want to make the most of this time to be with yourself, non-judging, just allowing. Decide that if your attention wanders, you will bring it back and if you become sleepy, you will try to wake yourself up.
Your mind will wander into thought again and again. This is natural. Meditation is just about noticing that the mind has wandered and returning it to your breathing or awareness of your body. No matter how many times your mind wanders or gets lost in thought, simply return it to whatever “anchor” you are working with, for example: the breath, the feeling of your body as it rests on the chair, or a sense of spaciousness within and around you.
Dealing with Obstacles
If you feel discomfort in your body, tension, tingling, itching or stiffness, just notice that and try to remain in the same position. If you feel you have to move, go ahead and change your posture and then return to focusing on your breath. Sometimes if you pay attention to these areas of discomfort, the feeling may pass and the tension may release on its own.
If you feel disturbed at any time with emotion, you might open your eyes and re-connect with your surroundings. Think of someone or something that makes you feel secure and loved.
If you feel restless or too anxious to sit, you may also get up and walk mindfully for as long as you would like. You may continue this practice or you may return and sit for a bit longer.
Closing Your Practice
At the end of your meditation time, give yourself a few moments to return to your regular life. Give yourself appreciation for setting aside this time just for you. Remember that by being compassionate and kind to yourself, you become better able to do the same for the other people in your life.
To listen to some brief, guided meditations, go to Guided Audio Meditations.